For the last 20 years the way we sell has been evolving. In the past 5, it has accelerated with the rapid proliferation of social networks, cloud and mobility.
Have you ever stopped to think how peculiar it is that when change happens really fast, it is so noticeable, yet when it happens gradually, we’re surprised when the change finally becomes apparent?
Take yourself for instance. Every morning we rise and most of us go through our routine. At some point we look in the mirror and since we do it every day we rarely notice how much we’re changing.
It isn’t until you see an old photograph of yourself or you meet an old friend that you notice just how different you look.
Our professional lives have a lot of parallels to this analogy about change. As we progress throughout our careers, we as individuals change, our roles (often) change, our company’s change and the people we work with change as well.
However, because we rarely look at all of the small changes at one time, we just become accustomed to small shifts and they tend to not really affect us until we see the impact of many small events leading to a very different world.
Perhaps you are wondering what all of this means. What does our changing face or the evolution of our careers have to do with better selling and marketing to our customers?
The answer is it has everything to do with better selling and marketing because for the last 20 years the way we sell has been evolving and in the last 5 it has accelerated with the rapid proliferation of social networks, cloud and mobility.
If you are in sales, you may be feeling this change, or you may be wondering what I mean, but I assure you that the change is here and in order to continue being successful for the next five, ten or twenty years there are some critical shifts you must be aware of.
Here are 4 important shifts that sales and marketing professionals must integrate into their strategies to ensure continued sales success in the highly connected digital economy.
1. The customer is more informed than ever before.
Did you know that according to Forrester Research that the average consumer is 68-90% through the sales journey before they will actively engage a vendor? This means that by the time you hear from a potential prospect, that person is likely well aware of your products and your competitors products. Furthered by the average buyer consumption of more than 11 pieces of online content prior to making a buying decision, clients are turning to websites, Google and their social networks for information and brand sentiment much sooner than they are calling up potential vendors.
2. Clients and Prospects have exceedingly high expectations for responsiveness to service and sales requests.
Thanks to a world where we are seemingly connected all of the time on mobile devices; people are now being driven by an almost unrealistic expectation of immediacy. Did you know that 67% of consumers expect a same day response to a service response that they post on social media channels? What if I told you that a staggering 47% expect the response in 2 hours and 35% expect it in just 30 minutes? This sense of immediacy is creating a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) sales shift that is infiltrating more traditional B2B and B2C channels even off of social media. Moreover, our best customer experiences offline and online are driving our professional expectations. While the need to be connected all of the time may seem unreasonable, our businesses live in a customer driven world where being available when they need us may be more important than the hours we post on our front door.
3. Value is rooted in information and creativity. Customers need vendors that drive user adoption and improved (measurable outcomes).
Did you know that every day we create about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data? For math nerds that is 2.5 x 10 to the 18th power. That is a ton of data and this quantity of data is driving a big shift for sales professionals. Above I mentioned the informed consumer and how it is impacting sales, but perhaps the most important thing that businesses can do is counter the shifting consumer by becoming the source of information and then using data to help consumers drive their desired results. Among the amazing statistics of data created on a daily basis, there are 347 blog posts, 571 new websites and 2 million Google search queries per minute on the web. That is a lot of consumers looking for and sharing data.
As a sales professional you need to be thinking about what important information your clients and prospects need to become more familiar and comfortable with your products and services. The second part of the role is using data and analytics to help your customers reach more quantifiable successes with the products you sell them. Smart companies are thinking about how they can provide analytical data to their customers to show them that what they sold them is helping them achieve the goal of the sale. Whether software, technology or cleaning supplies, businesses need to think about how they can prove that they are delivering the value they promised during the sale. This is a key to building word of mouth and retaining customers into the future.
4. Trust tops the list when it comes to building successful, sustainable customer relationships and winning the sale.
Did you know that we are exposed to 5000 advertisements a day but there isn’t a single advertising source that we trust at a rate of greater than 50%? Fact is, we are being marketed to like crazy, but our response to marketing isn’t necessarily garnering the results that businesses hope. To combat this, many companies are turning to influence marketing campaigns and community building activities to drive stronger customer sentiment. This is directly related to the fact that 90% of consumers trust a referral that they receive from their personal network. Furthermore, 81% of people go online to find those trusted referrals which is precisely why businesses are focused on building improved numbers of ambassadors and product evangelists that can spread the good word on their products. With word of mouth being the greatest business development opportunity according to 98% of businesses, it is a mere 3% that have true word of mouth business strategies in place leaving too much growth to chance. High levels of trust through building referral relationships with current clients and improved sentiment through brand influence are high on the list for sales growth in 2014 and beyond.
In short, the rules of sales are changing. Some of the shifts are fast and some are slow, but all of them should impact the way you connect with customers and manage those relationships.
How are you preparing for success in the next 1, 3, 5 years and beyond?
Want to learn more? Check out our free online seminar: The New Consumer Landscape – What Sales Teams Need To Know
Daniel Newman, the Millennial CEO, discusses trends in customer engagement and how you should adapt. We recorded the presentation, so you can access it any time here. Enjoy – and if you have any feedback, please let us know.